Last updated October 15th 2014
What do a self-made Israeli billionaire and London’s iconic Camden Markets have in common? For starters, enough for Playtech billionaire Teddy Sagi to purchase yet another section of the popular arts and crafts market this week. After acquiring the Camden Stables Market section this past March for $632.2 million (£400 million), Sagi has now acquired Camden Lock Market for up to $144.7 million (£90 million), hoping to expand his control of one of London’s most famous cultural landmarks. But what attracted the Israeli tech tycoon to this bric-a-brac and fast food market?
It all began when Sagi sold 15 percent of his ownership shares in Playtech, a highly successful online casino software company that was then valued on the London Stock Exchange at $884 million. This added nearly $552 million to Sagi’s already hefty fortune which today totals $2.3 billion, according to Forbes. Looking for a way to spice things up, the single 42-year-old business tycoon, who once reportedly dated Israeli model Bar Refaeli, took his money and flooded the market (but not that market). And while buying an arts and crafts market would seem to any other technology entrepreneur to be a poor investment, Sagi has pumped a good deal of funds into the preservation and marketing of one of London’s cultural gems.
The Israeli connection at Camden
When Sagi made up his mind to purchase Camden Stables Market for the hefty sum of $632.2 million, it wasn’t entirely by chance. Over 50 percent of the property sales were purchased from another Israeli tycoon, Bebo Kobo, with the remaining 50 percent owned by Chelsfield Developers and restauranteur Richard Caring. As part of the deal, Sagi also received control over Hawley Wharf, an area zoned for the construction of 170 homes, a school and an arthouse cinema, whose real estate value is set to provide Sagi with the impressive returns he’s used to.
Following the announcement of the deal, Sagi noted his role in ‘continuing’ Kobo’s project and enhancing “Camden Stables Market’s huge tourism and business potential”. Indeed, today Sagi’s goal for turning Camden Markets into his next profitable venture became even clearer, with the announcement of the acquisition of another section of Camden Lock Markets for up to £90 million. He purchased the newest section from the Fulford family’s Brockton Capital Fund, which has owned the market for over 40 years, since the 19th century establishment became London’s preeminent crafts and food market.
When asked regarding his plans for the market, Sagi’s remarks made it clear that it’s his next exciting venture: “Camden Lock … was a missing part of the puzzle on the way to creating a global brand. The purchase allows us to move forward more swiftly with developing the real estate and the unique electronic commerce that we are preparing and will make the huge potential of this place stronger.”
While the electronic commerce bit still remains unclear, it appears that a new payment method, like the Apple Pay method using smartphones, or an online ordering mechanism for the markets may be in the works.
An Israeli entrepreneur in the City of Westminster
Playing on his unprecedented success with Playtech, Sagi has since filed two initial public offerings in London in the past year. The first was SafeCharge, an international company specializing in credit card clearing for the online gaming industry, which raised $126 million at a company value of $404 million on the London Stock Exchange (AIM) this past March. The second, and most recent, is Crossrider, the Israeli company that Sagi purchased from its founders for $37 million, only to raise $75 million at a company valuation of $250 million on AIM this September.
In addition to bringing Israeli companies to London’s markets (not Camden Markets), Sagi was reportedly also in talks to purchase the Reading Football Club for up to £1 million ($1.6 million). Sagi is said to be a big fan of the famous English football club Chelsea, but according to the Daily Mail, he is now looking smaller teams with big potential for ‘turn around’ profits.
In his endeavors across the pond, it is becoming increasingly clear that Teddy Sagi is the Israeli name to remember in London Town.